All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
22 03, 2018

Frog spawn in the Office Pond

By | March 22nd, 2018|Animal News Stories, Educational Activities, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Frog Spawn in the Pond

After a false start, when we noticed one clump of unfertilised frog spawn in our pond, we are happy to announce that on the morning of the 17th March we spotted three clumps of newly laid frog spawn.  The first eggs were produced on the 20th of February, just prior to a sudden cold snap.  Whether a female frog had been stressed we don’t know, but despite our careful gathering of the tennis ball-sized clump of spawn and storing it in a goldfish bowl along with some of the pond water and pond weed, the eggs failed to develop.  Our intention was to protect the spawn from the extremely cold weather and then once the snow had melted, to re-introduce the spawn into the pond.

 Frog Spawn in the Office Pond (March 2018)

Frog spawn in the office pond (2018).

Frog spawn 2018, at least three clumps of spawn have been spotted.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Later Than Last Year

The spawning has taken place around a week later than last year.  We suspect the cold weather delayed the onset of breeding.  Hopefully, with the approach of warmer weather (no snow at least), this spawn will be able to develop and soon we will have tadpoles to observe.  The amount of spawn, is about average, we estimate that three females laid eggs.  Although the eggs tend to merge into one, single mat of jelly, if you can observe the egg masses before they swell you can get a reasonable idea of the number of fertile females present.

We Intend to Keep a Close Watch on the Frog Spawn

Frog spawn in the office pond (2018).

Frog spawn 2018.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Our pond is a haven for wildlife and we hope that at least some of the tadpoles make it to adulthood.   Common Frogs (Rana temporaria) inhabit our pond, although sadly, these animals like most of the native British amphibians are no longer common.  At least our little pond is helping with conservation efforts.

21 03, 2018

A Red Dimetrodon Drawing

By | March 21st, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Drawings, Main Page|0 Comments

A Red Dimetrodon

Whilst tidying up one of the office book shelves we came across this wonderful drawing of the Permian reptile Dimetrodon.  It had been sent into us by a young dinosaur fan who lives in Lancashire.  It just goes to show that Everything Dinosaur also receives drawings and illustrations of other prehistoric animals, not just dinosaurs.

A Very Colourful Dimetrodon Drawing

Dimetrodon drawing.

A drawing of a Dimetrodon.  Another example of a non-dinosaurian illustration having been sent in to Everything Dinosaur.

Most budding, young palaeontologists will tell you all about Dimetrodon, a genus of pelycosaur that evolved during the Permian period and died out many millions of years before the first dinosaurs.  Although, not a member of the Dinosauria, this sail-backed reptile is synonymous with the likes of Triceratops, Stegosaurus and Tyrannosaurus rex and often features in so-called “dinosaur model” sets.

Our thanks to the young palaeoartist who sent this drawing in, it certainly helped to brighten our day.

20 03, 2018

“Arkansas Reptile” – A Rare Insight into Appalachian Dinosaurs

By | March 20th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Arkansaurus fridayi – A Basal Ornithomimosaur

Dinosaur fossils unearthed in Lockesburg, (Arkansas), nearly fifty years ago have been formally described in a scientific journal.  Writing in the academic publication the “Journal of Vertebrate Palaeontology”, researchers have assigned the fossil elements representing the right hind foot of an “ostrich mimic dinosaur” to a basal position in the Ornithomimosauria clade.  The dinosaur, named Arkansaurus fridayi, was previously thought to represent an animal related to Ornitholestes.  However, the researchers, led by palaeontologist ReBecca Hunt-Foster, who works at the Bureau of Land Management and is based in Utah, a U.S. state more accustomed to dinosaur fossils than “The Natural State”, suggest that A. fridayi is more primitive than contemporaneous Asian ornithomimosaurs.

An Illustration of an Ornithomimid Dinosaur (Ornithomimus)

Ornithomimus illustration.

Reconstructions of Arkansaurus have been based on better known ornithomimids such as Ornithomimus (above).

Picture Credit: Julius Csotonyi

The State Dinosaur of Arkansas

Although only a handful of bones have been found, palaeontologists have built up a picture of this fleet-footed, lizard-hipped dinosaur, by comparing the fossil pedal (foot) material to more complete and better-known ornithomimids such as Struthiomimus and Ornithomimus that roamed western North America in the Late Cretaceous.  These Late Cretaceous ornithomimids lived on a landmass called Laramidia, it was separated from the eastern part of the continent by a shallow sea (the Western Interior Seaway).  Arkansas and consequently, Arkansaurus fridayi was on the other side of this waterway and very little is known about the dinosaurs that existed on this landmass (Appalachia).  The right foot, is the only known evidence of Saurischian dinosaurs from Arkansas, despite the lack of skeletal information and the absence of a formal scientific description, last year, this dinosaur was named the official state fossil of Arkansas.

ReBecca Hunt-Foster, started working on the fossils more than a decade ago, whilst studying at the University of Arkansas.  Her co-author of the scientific paper, James Quinn works at the Department of Geosciences (University of Arkansas), they postulate these fossils will help to improve our understanding of the radiation and geographical dispersal of ornithomimosaurs.  Arkansaurus roamed Appalachia some 113 million years ago (Albian-Aptian) faunal stage of the Early Cretaceous, it may well have been an ancestor of the Late Cretaceous “ostrich mimics” such as Ornithomimus.

An Illustration of Arkansaurus fridayi (Estimated Scale)

Arkansaurus illustrated.

An illustration of Arkansaurus fridayi.  The actual size of the dinosaur is not known, but based on the size of the foot bones, the fossils may represent a dinosaur that was over 4.6 metres in length.

Picture Credit: Brian Engh

Not Much Known About North American Early Cretaceous “Ostrich Mimics”

The fossilised foot bones come from the Lower Cretaceous Trinity Group.  Exposures in Texas have yielded plenty of dinosaur fossils, but as yet, no ornithomimids have been named from the Texas material, in fact Arkansaurus represents the second-oldest “ostrich mimic” dinosaur known from the whole of North America.   The oldest ornithomimid from North America described to date is Nedcolbertia, (N. justinhofmanni) which is known from fragmentary remains representing several juveniles found in Early Cretaceous sediments deposited in Utah.  Such is the paucity of the fossil material of Early Cretaceous ornithomimids from North America, that there is something like a fifteen-million-year gap between Nedcolbertia and the newly described Arkansaurus.

Vertebrate Palaeontologist ReBecca Hunt-Foster with a Cast of the Foot Bones

Arkansaurus foot bones and ReBecca Hunt-Foster.

Vertebrate palaeontologist ReBecca Hunt-foster with a cast of the Arkansaurus foot bones.

Picture Credit: R. Hunt-Foster

Lucky Fossil Discovery

The trivial name honours farmer Robert Friday who discovered the fossils on his farm back in 1972.  He was checking on his livestock when he spotted some bones in a ditch excavated by a road construction crew.  Any other parts of the skeleton that might have been preserved were probably lost as the construction crew worked.  Hunt-Foster and her colleagues are hoping to learn more about Appalachian ornithomimosaurs from any future fossil finds from Arkansas.  They hope to build up a picture of the Early Cretaceous palaeofauna and they have speculated that these types of dinosaurs may have originated in Europe and that they are not closely related to other, better known “ostrich mimics” from Asia.

To read an article about evidence of Appalachian horned dinosaurs: Horned Dinosaur Tooth Discovered in Northern Mississippi

The scientific paper: “A New Ornithomimosaur from the Lower Cretaceous Trinity Group of Arkansas” by ReBecca K. Hunt and James H. Quinn published in the Journal of Vertebrate Palaeontology.

19 03, 2018

Everything Dinosaur March Newsletter

By | March 19th, 2018|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Newsletters, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

Rebor Fallen Queen, Straight-tusked Elephants and Paleo-Creatures Feature in Newsletter

Everything Dinosaur’s latest customer newsletter has been circulated and it contains lots of helpful information about new products, stocking levels and updates on forthcoming introductions.  The headline features the return of the extremely popular Rebor Fallen Queen (Triceratops horridus) figure.  Version two of this figure is back in production and Everything Dinosaur has received stocks of this super replica which makes a fantastic addition the Rebor King T. rex model.

The March Newsletter has Triceratops in the Headlines

The Rebor Triceratops figure (Fallen Queen) features in an Everything Dinosaur newsletter.

The Rebor T. horridus in the March newsletter from Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The Rebor Fallen Queen is a Stand Alone Figure or can be used in Conjunction with the Rebor 1:35 scale T. rex Replica

The Rebor Fallen Queen and the Rebor King T. rex.

The Rebor Fallen Queen (version 2) with the Rebor King T. rex figure.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Everything Dinosaur customers who had requested a model be reserved for them have already been contacted.

To view the range of Rebor replicas available from Everything Dinosaur: Rebor Scale Models and Figures

Palaeoloxodon antiquus – Straight-tusked Elephant

On the subject of reserve lists, Everything Dinosaur’s priority reserve list for the second model in the Eofauna Scientific Research scale model series is now open.  The Straight-tusked elephant (P. antiquus) has already generated a lot of excitement after our joint press release with our friends at Eofauna.  A number of museums and other institutions have already made enquiries and this 1:35 scale figure will be with us in June.

Proving Very Popular Already – The Eofauna Scientific Research Straight-tusked Elephant Model

Palaeoloxodon antiquus model reserve list.

The reserve list is now open for the Eofauna Scientific Research Straight-tusked elephant.

Picture Credit: Eofauna Scientific Research/Everything Dinosaur

To join our priority reserve list for this stunning Straight-tusked elephant scale model, simply drop Everything Dinosaur an email: Email Everything Dinosaur

Leave the rest to us, you don’t have to have a memory like an elephant, we will reserve a figure for you and a team member will personally email you to let you know that the stock has arrived.

Extinct Animals from Paleo-Creatures and a Soft Toy Dodo

Our latest bulletin also features three new figures from Paleo-Creatures, the “sleeping dragon” Mei long, a marvellous Arthropleura model and especially for fans of early armoured dinosaurs, a splendid Scelidosaurus replica.  These new additions are in stock and currently available from Everything Dinosaur.

Paleo-Creatures Replicas and a Dodo Soft Toy

Paleo-Creatures and a Dodo soft toy.

Extinct creatures feature in the Everything Dinosaur March 2018 newsletter.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The Paleo-Creatures range of hand-crafted prehistoric animals: Paleo-Creatures Models and Figures

Standing a fraction under twenty centimetres high, the new Dodo soft toy has been skilfully crafted and it looks incredibly cute.  There are just a few of these remarkable plush Dodos in stock so grab yours before they become extinct.  Best of all, you don’t have to travel all the way to Mauritius to pick one up.

The Dodo Soft Toy Available from Everything Dinosaur

Dodo soft toy.

Soft toy Dodo available from Everything Dinosaur

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the soft toy Dodo and other prehistoric animal soft toys: Prehistoric Animal Soft Toys

PNSO Triceratops “Doyle” and the Eofauna Scientific Research Steppe Mammoth

Concluding our latest newsletter, we feature the stunning and extremely rare PNSO Triceratops “Doyle” figure along with the very first figure in the Eofauna Scientific Research range, the 1:40 scale Steppe Mammoth model (Mammuthus trogontherii).  These two scale models have proved to be extremely popular with model collectors.

The PNSO Triceratops Figure “Doyle” and the Eofauna Scientific Research Steppe Mammoth

Eofauna Scientific Research Steppe Mammoth and the PNSO Triceratops (Doyle).

PNSO Triceratops Doyle and the Eofauna Scientific Research Steppe Mammoth.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The Steppe Mammoth figure measures nineteen centimetres long and is just under twelve centimetres high at the shoulders, it can be found here: Eofauna Steppe Mammoth model

Coming from the PNSO Age of Dinosaurs range, the Triceratops “Doyle” is also in 1:35 scale, it measures around 26 centimetres in length and the base upon which the replica stands is a little over nineteen centimetres long.

The PNSO Triceratops “Doyle” can be viewed here: PNSO Age of Dinosaurs

We look forward to sending out more newsletters later on in the spring.  Remember, if you want to join our newsletter list simply drop Everything Dinosaur an email, expressing your wish to get our periodic newsletters: Email Everything Dinosaur to Subscribe to our Newsletter

18 03, 2018

Answering Questions About Diplodocus

By | March 18th, 2018|Adobe CS5, Educational Activities, Main Page, Teaching|0 Comments

Class 1 at Ysgol Bro Carmel Enquire About Diplodocus

The children in class 1 at Ysgol Bro Carmel Nursery and Primary School in North Wales have been learning all about dinosaurs this term.  The class teacher, Mrs Metcalfe emailed Everything Dinosaur and explained that as part of the diverse and varied teaching programme, the eager, young palaeontologists had some questions about Diplodocus for us.  A Diplodocus had been spotted in the school yard and the children had been writing instructions on how to trap this long-necked dinosaur.  Could Everything Dinosaur offer some assistance?

Diplodocus on Display at the Natural History Museum (London)

Diplodocus skeleton on display.

Diplodocus on display in a museum, this long-necked dinosaur is proving to be very popular with the Class 1 children at Ysgol Bro Carmel.

Answering Questions About Dinosaurs and Diplodocus

What Did Dinosaurs Eat?

Palaeontologists can work out what extinct dinosaurs liked to eat by looking at their fossilised teeth.  The shape of the teeth can tell a scientist a lot about the type of food that dinosaurs ate.  The teeth of Velociraptor are sharp, pointed and curved.  This suggests that Velociraptor was a meat-eater (carnivore).  The teeth of Diplodocus are a very different shape when compared to the teeth of the fearsome Velociraptor.  Diplodocus only had teeth at the front of its mouth, these teeth were thin and looked like pegs.

Comparing the Teeth of a Meat-eater (Velociraptor) to the Teeth of a Plant-eater (Diplodocus)

Teeth comparison (Velociraptor and Diplodocus).

Comparing the teeth of the carnivore Velociraptor to the herbivore Diplodocus.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur from original illustrations by Michael Skrepnick and Zhao Chuang

Diplodocus was a plant-eater (herbivore), this dinosaur probably spent most of his life eating plants.

How is Diplodocus Different from Brontosaurus?

Diplodocus and Brontosaurus were closely related.  Both were plant-eaters and they probably liked to eat the same types of plants.  These long-necked dinosaurs lived in the Late Jurassic and their fossils have been found in the same country (United States of America).  Diplodocus was different from Brontosaurus in a number of ways, Diplodocus had a much longer tail and its neck was longer and more slender than Brontosaurus.  Brontosaurus was probably much heavier than Diplodocus.

Similarities and Differences Between Brontosaurus and Diplodocus

Diplodocus compared to Brontosaurus.

Brontosaurus compared to Diplodocus.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

How big is a Diplodocus?

We have provided some information about the size of Diplodocus in the picture above.  Can the children work out how much longer Diplodocus was compared to Brontosaurus?  Why have we put a picture of a person next to our two dinosaur drawings (above), can the children think like scientists and come up with the answer?

How Could We Trap a Diplodocus if it was Alive?

Trying to trap a Diplodocus might be quite dangerous, after all, this plant-eating dinosaur was much bigger than any land animals alive today.  The children have probably come up with some amazing ideas and suggestions.  You could dig a big pit and cover it with tree branches then chase the Diplodocus towards the hole, if the Diplodocus fell in, it would probably get stuck, so long as the hole was deep enough.  However, this might hurt the dinosaur, so perhaps instead of trying to force the dinosaur to try and do something, it might be better to persuade it to come to you.

Since Diplodocus needed to eat a lot of plants, class 1 could perhaps persuade it to come and visit them by putting out some of its favourite food.  If the children collected lots and lots of ferns (Diplodocus probably ate around 200 kilograms of plants every day), filling a shopping trolley with Diplodocus treats, might persuade the dinosaur to come and visit the children in the playground.

Attracting Diplodocus into the Playground by Providing Some of its Favourite Food

Attracting a Diplodocus into the playground.

No need to catch a Diplodocus, try attracting it into the playground by leaving out some of its favourite food.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

People attract dinosaurs into their gardens every day, even though they probably don’t realise they are doing this.  Birds are so closely related to dinosaurs, that we should not call birds “birds” at all.  They are “avian dinosaurs”.  If you have a bird table at your school or in your garden you can watch dinosaurs feeding.  Check out the feet on birds like the sparrow, thrush and blackbird, they have claws just like a dinosaur and they walk on three toes just like Tyrannosaurus rex!

How Long is the Neck of a Diplodocus?  How Long is the Tail of Diplodocus?

A complete fossilised neck of Diplodocus has never been discovered.  All the bones that make up a tail of a Diplodocus have never been found.  When you visit a museum and see a spectacular mounted skeleton like “Dippy” the Diplodocus which used to be on display at the Natural History Museum (London), the skeleton you see consists of the bones of several individuals put together to make a single exhibit.  Missing bones are made as models and added to the skeleton to make it look complete.  Most palaeontologists think that Diplodocus had around fourteen or fifteen neck bones and the neck measured about eight metres long.  A baby Diplodocus had a relatively short neck, when it hatched (as far as we know, all dinosaurs hatched from eggs, just like birds today), as the Diplodocus grew, its neck got longer and longer.  The whip-like tail of Diplodocus was longer than its neck.  Size estimates for the tail of a Diplodocus are difficult to make, but Everything Dinosaur’s fossil experts suggest that the tail of a fully-grown Diplodocus could have been around fourteen metres long, that’s longer than a Badminton court!

Comparing a Diplodocus to Large Land Animals Alive Today

How big was Diplodocus?

Diplodocus compared to animals alive today.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Our thanks to all the children in class 1 at Ysgol Bro Carmel Nursery and Primary School, we hope our answers to your questions help you with your term topic.

17 03, 2018

“Attenborough’s Sea Dragon” on Display

By | March 17th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Ichthyosaur Specimen on Display at Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre

The fossilised remains of a new species of Ichthyosaur are on display at the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre for the rest of this year.  The Centre, based on the famous Jurassic coast of Dorset, will be home to the partial skeleton of a four-metre-long, new species of “fish lizard”, it’s discovery and excavation was documented in a BBC television programme shown back in January.

The New Ichthyosaur Display at the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre

Ichthyosaur specimen on display.

The “Sea Dragon” fossil on display.  The head of the specimen has been lost, it probably was eroded out of the cliff face prior to Chris Moore’s discovery.

Picture Credit: Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre

Narrated by Sir David Attenborough, the programme told the story of the fossil’s discovery by experienced local collector Chris Moore.  Chris along with a team of climbing experts and geologists spent weeks excavating the rock containing the creature by hand from a Dorset cliff.  The headless skeleton, that even retained evidence of Ichthyosaur skin, was transported by boat back to Lyme Regis so that the matrix covering the bones could slowly be removed and full details of the 200-million-year-old specimen revealed.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s article about the BBC documentary: Attenborough and the Sea Dragon

Experts from Southampton and Bristol Universities studied and analysed the skeleton as well as the exceptionally well-preserved skin still on the bones.  They identified it as a new species of Ichthyosaur, probably an animal of the open ocean that for some reason had come closer to the shore, where, in the coastal waters, it was attacked and killed by a much larger animal.  The palaeontologists, preparators and researchers had a murder scene on their hands.  In the television programme, a CGI version of the unfortunate marine reptile was created and its final moments re-enacted, an attack by a super predator, one of the most dangerous animals on the planet during the Early Jurassic – a ferocious Temnodontosaurus.

Everything Dinosaur’s Illustration of Temnodontosaurus

Scale drawing of Temnodontosaurus.

Temnodontosaurus scale drawing (T. platyodon) shown giving birth.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Attacked by a Much Larger Ichthyosaur

As the fossilised skeleton was slowly but surely revealed, damaged vertebrae and broken ribs provided evidence of an attack by a much bigger marine reptile.  The assailant was probably a Temnodontosaurus, one of the largest of the Ichthyosauria, capable of growing to around ten metres in length with a body mass estimated at approximately two tonnes.  The attacker did not get its prize, the researchers speculated that the initial bite on the unfortunate victim, punctured the animal’s body cavity releasing air from the lungs and the Ichthyosaur’s body descended into the deep.  The body of the Ichthyosaur descended rapidly and it was soon out of the diving range of the attacker, coming to rest on the seabed.  The corpse was rapidly covered by fine sediment and fossilisation eventually took place, two hundred million years later, fossil hunter Chris Moore spotted part of the skeleton eroding out of a cliff and the process of excavating the specimen was begun.

Chris Moore (Foreground) with Sir David Attenborough and Sally Thompson (Producer/Director of the Television Documentary)

Chris Moore on the Dorset Coast

Chris Moore (foreground) with television programme director/producer Sally Thompson and Sir David Attenborough (background).

Picture Credit: Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre

Veteran naturalist, life-long fossil collector and highly esteemed broadcaster, Sir David Attenborough explained in the hour-long programme:

“It’s been a fascinating journey of discovery, but for me the real wonder is the bones themselves.  It is a long time spent just revealing the body of this creature, but it’s also revealed this extraordinary story of life and death, predator and prey fighting it out in the seas 200 million years ago, just down there (at the beach).”

Team members from Everything Dinosaur are hoping to visit the exhibit at the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre when they will be working on the Dorset coast in the autumn.

As the BBC television programme drew to a close, Sir David Attenborough remarked:

“For Chris [Chris Moore], this has been a labour of love and its filled in another gap in the palaeontological jigsaw.  A story that all started with an odd-looking boulder on a Dorset beach.  It’s extraordinary to think that some 200 million years ago exactly here, the greatest predator of its time was swimming around in the sea, and that’s what I love about fossils and fossil hunting, it gives you an extraordinarily vivid insight into what the world was like millions of years before human beings even appeared on this planet.”

Attenborough’s Sea Dragon is on display at Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre throughout 2018.

For further information on the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre: Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre

16 03, 2018

“Beast from the East” Does Not Stop Dedicated Fossil Hunters

By | March 16th, 2018|Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Irregular Sea Urchins in Unseasonable Weather

The area of the Dorset coast around Lyme Regis and Charmouth is often said by locals to experience its very own microclimate.  Everything Dinosaur team members have experienced this phenomenon for themselves, it can be raining very heavily inland at Axminster but on the coast, it can be a dry and sunny.  However, when the “Beast from the East” affected most parts of the UK recently, the Lyme Regis area had its fair share of bad weather.

Our fossil hunting chum, Brandon Lennon took a photograph of Lyme Regis high street as the cold snap hit.  Brandon commented that shoppers were taking to skis to ensure that they could traverse the steeply sloping terrain.

The “Beast from the East” Made Its Presence Felt on the Dorset Coast

Snowy conditions in Lyme Regis

Lyme Regis high street covered in snow.

Picture Credit: Brandon Lennon

Fossil Collecting in the Snow

Fossil hunting in the snow is difficult but not impossible.  With the treacherous road conditions, most fossil collectors who would have had to travel into the Lyme Regis area by car, sensibly postponed their journeys.  This meant that local fossil hunters had the beaches to themselves for as long as the inclement weather persisted.  Several calcite ammonites were collected from the East Cliff Beach (heading towards the small village of Charmouth).  Brandon found some beautiful fossil sea urchins (irregular echinoderms) whilst exploring Monmouth Beach, to the west of the Cobb.  It may have been cold and the beaches were almost deserted but some exciting fossil discoveries could still be made.

A Beautiful Cretaceous Echinoderm Fossil Extracted from a Flint Nodule

Echinoderm fossil (Lyme Regis).

A sea urchin fossil extracted from a flint nodule.

Picture Credit: Brandon Lennon

The weekend promises a “mini Beast from the East” to hit the UK.  More snow could fall in the Lyme Regis area, however, we don’t think it will be enough to dissuade the dedicated fossil hunters of Dorset from visiting the beaches to see what they can find.

Everything Dinosaur recommends that visitors to the Lyme Regis area interested in collecting fossils, go on an organised fossil walk.  This is the safest way to explore the beaches around the town of Lyme Regis, as the sea can cut-off unwary beachcombers and cliff falls are common in the area.

For information about organised fossil walks: Brandon Lennon Fossil Walks

16 03, 2018

Investigating Fossils

By | March 16th, 2018|Key Stage 1/2|Comments Off on Investigating Fossils

Fossil Investigation – Learning About Mary Anning

Our dinosaur expert spotted a very busy fossil investigation table whilst on a visit to Altrincham Preparatory School to work with the two classes of Year 1 children who are currently studying dinosaurs and fossils.  The boys have been learning all about the life and work of Mary Anning and most of the fossils on display came from the Lyme Regis (Dorset) area which is where Mary lived.

Fossil Investigation Table

Fossil investigation as part of a term topic on Mary Anning.

Fossils from Lyme Regis spotted in a Year 1 class as children learn about Mary Anning.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Altrincham Preparatory School

Mary Anning Themed Extension Resources

After an exciting morning of dinosaur and fossil workshops, our team member returned to the office and prepared additional themed extension materials that were then emailed over to the school.  Having been comprehensively briefed by the dedicated and enthusiastic Year 1 teaching staff, we were able to provide a non-chronological report compiling exercise that involved the boys researching the story of Mary Anning and learning about some of her fossil discoveries.  In addition, we were able to send over some pictures and drawing materials of prehistoric animals that once thrived in the seas and oceans of the Mesozoic.  After all, the rocks along the Dorset coast around Lyme Regis were all formed in marine conditions.

The Mary Anning Non-chronological Report Exercise Prepared for the School

A Mary Anning non-chronological report.

A non-chronological report exercise provided for KS1 pupils.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

An Example of One of the Marine Reptile Drawings Sent to the School

Marine reptile drawing (Attenborosaurus).

Attenborosaurus marine reptile drawing.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

We look forward to seeing the prehistoric marine seascapes that the pupils create.  Perhaps they will be put up on display in the well-appointed classrooms, if so, we might receive a picture of the boy’s artwork which we can share on our various social media sites.

15 03, 2018

Pterosaurs More Diverse at the End of the Cretaceous than Previously Thought

By | March 15th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|1 Comment

Getting to Grips with Six New Species of Pterosaurs

The Pterosauria, that Order of winged reptiles that thrived alongside the dinosaurs were thought to have had their heyday in the Early Cretaceous. Only a single family, the Azhdarchidae (several of whom were giants), was known from the very end of the Cretaceous (Maastrichtian faunal stage).  Many palaeontologists had thought that these flying reptiles, the first vertebrates to evolve powered flight, had gone into gradual decline, slowly but surely displaced by those rapidly evolving new masters of the air, the birds.

However, a scientific paper, published this week in the academic journal “PLOS Biology”, challenges this view.  A total of six new species, representing three families of pterosaurs have been discovered in Late Cretaceous (Maastrichtian) rocks in Morocco.  This new discovery, the most diverse Late Cretaceous pterosaur fossil assemblage found to date, suggests that the Pterosauria may not have gradually faded away, as previously thought.  Their long lineage probably ended abruptly, in essence, the Pterosauria met the same fate at the end of the Cretaceous as their Archosaur cousins the Dinosauria.

A Diverse Assemblage of Pterosaurs – Late Cretaceous Morocco

Pterosaurs of the Late Cretaceous (Morocco).

Six new species of pterosaur have been identified from Morocco.  This suggests that the Pterosauria were far more diverse and speciose at the end of the Cretaceous than previously thought.

Picture Credit: John Conway

A Treasure Trove of Ancient Vertebrate Fossils

Writing in the journal PLOS Biology, the researchers from the University of Bath, Portsmouth University and the University of Texas at Austin, identified a total of seven species of flying reptile from fragmentary and largely isolated fossils found in marine rocks from phosphate mines in northern Morocco (Ouled Abdoun Basin).  Working in conjunction with local fossil hunters, the scientists were able to build up a collection of around two hundred pterosaur bones.

Over the years, commercial mining has revealed large numbers of marine vertebrates dating from the end of the Cretaceous and into the Palaeogene.  Cretaceous fauna associated with these deposits include turtles, plesiosaurs, mosasaurs, sharks and lots of different types of teleost (bony fish).  Occasionally the remains of terrestrial animals are preserved in such deposits, including the bones of Late Cretaceous dinosaurs, representing some of the youngest dinosaur fossils found.

To read our 2017 article about the discovery of an abelisaurid dinosaur: The Last Dinosaur in Africa

The pterosaurs identified by the researchers range in size with the smallest found having a wingspan equivalent to that of an extant Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), to giants with wingspans approaching ten metres, three times bigger than the wingspan of the largest volant birds alive today.  The fossil material has been dated to just over 66 million years ago, making these pterosaurs amongst the very last of their kind on Earth.

The Mandible of the Newly Described Nyctosaurid Alcione elainus

Pterosaur fossil mandible Alcione elainus.

The mandible of the newly described Moroccan pterosaur A. elainus.

Picture Credit: PLOS Biology


dgr = dorsal groove, ocl = occlusal ridge,  sym = symphysis.

Lead author of the study, Dr Nicholas Longrich, (Milner Centre for Evolution and the Department of Biology and Biochemistry, Bath University) stated:

“To be able to grow so large and still be able to fly, pterosaurs evolved incredibly lightweight skeletons, with the bones reduced to thin-walled, hollow tubes like the frame of a carbon-fibre racing bike.  Unfortunately, that means these bones are fragile and so almost none survive as fossils.”

Six New Species of Pterosaur

The researchers were able to identify six new species of pterosaur, representing three different families:

  1. Tethydraco regalis (Pteranodontidae) – the youngest member of the Pteranodontidae family described to date.  Estimated wingspan around 5 metres.
  2. Alcione elainus (Nyctosauridae) – wingspan estimated at about 2 metres.
  3. Simurghia robusta (Nyctosauridae) – a large pterosaur with a wingspan of around 4 metres.
  4. Barbaridactylus grandis (Nyctosauridae) – an even bigger pterosaur with a wingspan estimated to be about 5.2 metres.
  5. Quetzalcoatlus spp. (Azhdarchidae) – described from a single neck bone (cervical vertebra) which resembles the cervical vertebrae of Quetzalcoatlus (Q. northropi).  Size estimates for this flying reptile are very speculative, however, it could have had a wingspan of around 4 metres based on comparisons with better known azhdarchid pterosaurs.
  6. Sidi Chennane specimen (Azhdarchidae) – not scientifically named as yet, known from a single, partial ulna (arm bone), measuring 362 mm long, but when complete it would have been around 600 to 700 mm in length.  This suggests a giant azhdarchid pterosaur with a wingspan of approximately 9 metres.  This specimen has been named after the phosphate mine where it was found, formal scientific description will depend on the discovery of more fossil material.  The researchers conclude that this animal was probably related to the giant azhdarchid Arambourgiania philadelphiae, which is known from the Late Cretaceous of Jordan and the United States.

Late Cretaceous Pterosaur Faunas (Marine and Terrestrial) Compared to Late Cretaceous Birds

Late Cretaceous birds compared to Late Cretaceous Pteosaurs

Size disparity between Late Cretaceous pterosaurs and Late Cretaceous birds.

Picture Credit: PLOS Biology with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

The diagram above compares the size disparity between Late Cretaceous pterosaurs with those of contemporaneous birds (coeval Aves – birds that lived at the same time as these flying reptiles).  Pterosaurs shaded blue are associated with marine environments, pterosaurs shaded in brown are associated with terrestrial habitats.  The six new species from the Ouled Abdoun Basin identified in the scientific paper have been given a red star.  The one species from the Ouled Abdoun Basin that had been previously described (2003), has been labelled with a green star (the azhdarchid Phosphatodraco mauritanicus).

The giant pterosaur referred to as the Sidi Chennane specimen is estimated to have approached Quetzalcoatlus in size, but it was much more lightly built and therefore, presumably weighed less.  These proportions indicate a distinct flight mode and ecological niche, suggesting that giant pterosaurs occupied a range of niches in Late Cretaceous habitats.  In addition, the researchers conclude that this flying reptile fossil assemblage demonstrates that the Maastrichtian pterosaurs show increased ecological niche occupation when compared to earlier Late Cretaceous pterosaurs (Santonian to Campanian faunas).  This study also indicates that when it came to developing large body forms, the Pterosauria were able to outcompete coeval birds.

The Fossilised Partial Ulna of the Sidi Chennane Specimen

Fossil ulna of a giant azhdarchid pterosaur.

The ulna of the Sidi Chennane specimen.

Picture Credit: PLOS Biology


ut = ulna tubercle, vp = ventral process

5% Increase in Known Pterosaur Species

Co-author of the study, Dr Brian Andres, from the Jackson School of Geosciences at The University of Texas at Austin, commented:

“The Moroccan fossils tell the last chapter of the pterosaurs’ story – and they tell us pterosaurs dominated the skies over the land and sea, as they had for the previous 150 million years.”

With around 130 pterosaur species described to date, these fossils from Morocco have led to a 5 percent increase in the known number of flying reptile species.  This diversity of pterosaur species from Upper Maastrichtian deposits in Morocco suggest an abrupt mass extinction of the Pterosauria at the Cretaceous-Palaeogene boundary.

The scientific paper: “Late Maastrichtian Pterosaurs from North Africa and Mass Extinction of Pterosauria at the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary” by Nicholas R. Longrich, David M. Martill and Brian Andres published in PLOS Biology.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of a press release from the University of Bath in the compilation of this article.

14 03, 2018

Are Palaeontologists Naming Too Many New Species?

By | March 14th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Cautionary Tale When It Comes to Naming New Species from Fragmentary Fossils

In the 19th Century when scientists were beginning to understand that there were many different types of dinosaur, lots of new species were erected, often from the most fragmentary of fossils.  As the western United States and Canada were explored, large quantities of dinosaur fossil material came to light.  This led to palaeontologists naming many new species.  Famous dinosaurs such as the hadrosaurid Trachodon (T. mirabilis), which graced an amazing number of dinosaur books in the 1960’s and 1970’s, named in 1856 by the American palaeontologist Joseph Leidy, is a typical example.  Leidy described Trachodon from just a few teeth found in Montana (Judith River Formation).  Today, palaeontologists regard the genus Trachodon as nomen dubium (its validity is doubted).   Those teeth used to describe this iconic duck-billed dinosaur probably represent several different plant-eating dinosaurs both Hadrosaurs and even horned dinosaurs (Ceratopsians).

As Seen in Numerous Dinosaur Books in the Late 20th Century – Trachodon

Postcard with Trachodon illustration.

An illustration of Trachodon.  A genus of dinosaur regarded as nomen dubium (validity is questioned).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Recognising new Fossil Species

It is not just the Dinosauria that has suffered from overzealous species naming, however, a comprehensive review of variations in Ichthyosaur bones will help scientists to recognise new fossil species.  Dean Lomax (Manchester University) and Professor Judy Massare (SUNY College at Brockport, New York, USA), have examined hundreds of Ichthyosaurus specimens and they urge caution when it comes to erecting new species based on the evidence of a few fragmentary elements or isolated fossil remains.

Writing in the “Geological Journal”, the pair of scientists report that by focusing on just one part of the anatomy of an Ichthyosaurus an appreciation of the variation within a species can be obtained.  Their paper looked at the hind fin, (back paddle), the purpose being to evaluate different forms amongst the six known species that make up the Ichthyosaurus genus.  In total, ninety-nine specimens were examined, providing useful information on the variations within different species of “fish lizard”.

A Fossil Specimen of Ichthyosaurus somersetensis Named and Formally Described in 2017

Ichthyosaurus somersetensis specimen.

Ichthyosaurus somersetensis fossil specimen.  The black arrow in the photograph shows the location of the hind fin.

Picture Credit: Dean Lomax/Manchester University

Large Sample Size Helps to Provide Robust Results

Early in their research, the scientists found different types of hind fin that initially appeared to represent different species.  As more specimens were studied, they found further examples of variation between the hind fins of individual animals.   The hind fins differed in a number of ways, hind fins had different numbers of bones, their shape differed and the size of the hind fin also varied.  From this work, it was concluded that a single hind fin alone could not be used to distinguish amongst the species of Ichthyosaurus, however, particular variations were more common in certain species than in others.

Palaeontologist Dean Lomax explained:

“As we have such a large, complete sample size, which is relatively unique among such fossil vertebrates, our study can help illustrate the limitations that palaeontologists face when dealing with few or even just one specimen.”

This new study shows that with only a few specimens in the sample, features can be found that differ substantially from one specimen to the next and this can cause confusion if these autapomorphies (distinctive traits) are used to classify organisms.  It can appear that there are several species.  In reality, with a much bigger sample, the gaps in the “unique” variations are filled in, showing that differences are simply the result of individual variations within a population.

Judy Massare added:

“We described a few hind fins, which might have been called a new species if they were found in isolation.  Instead, we had enough specimens to determine that it was just an extreme variation of a common form.”

How Many Types of Ichthyosaurus Existed?

A Jurassic marine scene (Ichthyosaurus).

Ichthyosaurus life restoration.

Picture Credit: James McKay

“Lumpers” and “Splitters”

Palaeontologists can be put into two distinct groups when it comes to naming new species, the “lumpers” and the “splitters”.   “Lumpers” group similar specimens together, whilst in contrast, the “splitters” opt to split specimens into new species.  In this new study, if the team opted to split-up the specimens based on the variation found, it would suggest that there were a large number of species.

Dean Lomax stated:

“If we considered the variation as unique, it would mean we would be naming about 30 new species.  This would be similar to what was done in the 19th Century when any new fossil find, from a new location or horizon, was named as a new species if it differed slightly from previously known specimens.”

Just like the example of Trachodon given above.

As more fossil material is found and better dating techniques are developed, the decision to erect a new species has to be given extremely careful consideration.  This new study into variation within an extinct group of individual specimens can help scientists to make appropriate choices when it comes to classification.

The scientific paper: “Hindfins of Ichthyosaurus: effects of large sample size on ‘distinct’ morphological characters” by Judy A. Massare and Dean R. Lomax published in the Geological Journal.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of Manchester University in the compilation of this article.

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